on changing base
liquid gold also
| The Six Kegerator Commandments
In my last article I described some of the many advantages of owning a kegerator, cost and quality being
the greatest benefits. In this article I would like to help all of you who took the plunge into the world of
owning or creating your own draft beer system to properly care for your unit. There are several rules of
thumb I’ve created to help keep your draft system working in top order.
Here are the Ale-chemist’s 6 Commandments for maintaining a kegerator.
1. Cleanliness is NEXT TO Godliness
2. Use the Right Components and Materials
3. Know Each Component of Your Draft System
4. Plan Ahead
5. Quality Over Quantity
6. Responsibility and Moderation
Cleanliness is NEXT TO Godliness:
Lets discuss the commandments in more detail. As with so many aspects of life the first and most
important rule is to keep your system CLEAN. I cannot stress this enough. Clean your lines, clean
your tap faucet(s), clean the nuts, washers, tailpieces and clean your keg coupler. If you’re a home
brewer using cornelius kegs then you won’t have a keg coupler. Still, many home brewers enjoy the
freshness of their own brews right along side very well executed commercial brews. To keep your
system clean I recommend cleaning your faucets, beer dispenser lines and your keg couples each
time you tap a fresh keg.
That being said, use some common sense. If you know that it will be more than a day before your
going to tap your next keg you should always clean your dispensing components shortly (within
several hours) of kicking your current keg. Just think back to your college days. Remember the
sticky floors in the houses where beer was plentiful? Well that’s the sugary malted barley, the body
of the beer sitting around on some surface. In many places you can even smell spilled beer when
you walk in. This is NOT what you want in your draft system.
Beer, especially dark malted beers, are chock full of vitamins and minerals. This is good for you,
but it’s also good for germs and bacteria. If you’ve ever taken a biology or microbiology class think
of it almost like an auger plate. Just introduce some no good bacteria and watch it grow. If you
leave beer that is not under pressure, i.e. a beer line with residual beer that has not been cleaned
out, and let it sit for a while you will get things growing in your beer line. This can be remedied, but
let me tell you its much easier to prevent this with good housekeeping.
Have you ever ordered a pint of a beer your familiar with but it “tastes off”? There’s a very good
chance the beer lines haven’t been cleaned well or regularly enough. Whenever this happen, I stop
going to the bar. I’ll even put an unfinished pint on the bar, pay for it, and walk out (this is sacrilege
under any other circumstances). But I’m trying to make a point to the purveyor of the bar that
he/she needs to make some changes. You should always clean ALL of the equipment that comes in
contact with the beer just before you tap a fresh keg. If your going to wait for a while to put on a
new keg, then you don’t have to be as thorough in cleaning your dispensing equipment, but
remember to get any old beer out of the beer line, the tap faucets and the keg coupler. Disassemble
each piece of equipment, especially your faucets when cleaning your beer lines.
I recommend using a nylon wire brush to push the check ball assembly (plastic ball and stopper)
from your keg coupler and cleaning them. To do this, push the brush up through the bottom of the
keg coupler (where the keg attaches). No further disassembly is necessary to clean your keg
coupler. I recommend a beer line cleaning kit. By thoroughly cleaning your dispensing equipment
you’ll ensure that the keg you just purchased will continue to taste its best though out the duration of
the keg. Brewers take much pride in brewing their beer. Make sure you thank them by enjoying the
beer they brew and not compromising the flavor quality of the brew. Besides you pay enough for
each keg, so you might as well make sure your going to enjoy each pint!
Use the Right Components and Materials:
I highly recommend the use of stainless steel for any component that comes into contact with your
beer. While more expensive, you can rest assured that each component in your draft system will not
affect the quality of your beer. These components include the faucets, nuts and tailpieces that
connect to each end of the beer line and the keg coupler. Make sure that the body and the PROBE
of your keg coupler are constructed of stainless steel. Remember that each component that comes
into contact with your beer will directly affect the flavor of your beer.
If you’ve decided to purchase a kegerator from a reputable manufacturer (such as True or Perlick),
then your system will include high quality components. However, manufacturers may cut corners
where they can, so pay attention to the materials included with any kegerator unit. Shortly after
purchasing my kegerator I noticed what appeared to be small metal flakes in my beer. I found this
to be very concerning and downright unacceptable. The next time I cleaned my beer lines I noticed
that the faucet that was included with my kegerator had several pieces constructed with a plastic
“chrome like” finish that had begun to flake off. Needless to say I ordered a Perlick beer faucet
(Perlick 425SS) constructed completely of stainless steel. The best feature of this faucet is that the
nozzle can be unscrewed and washed without having to remove and disassemble the whole faucet.
This comes in handy when you have a “guest” that the faucet nozzle with their dirty beer glass. The
Perlick 425SS is advertised as being the most sanitary faucet available.
When it’s time to purchase a regulator make sure you choose a model with an easy to adjust
pressure control. Micromatic’s premium series regulators offer a large pressure control knob. This
feature is much more convenient than adjusting the pressure supplied to your keg with a screwdriver
like most other regulators. Small pressure adjustments can be made with ease. If you’ve customized
your draft system like I have, then you’ll find it may be difficult to access your regulators with a
This section pertains mainly to having an ample supply of CO2 on hand at all times. There is nothing
like tapping a fresh keg of your favorite brew, pulling the tap handle and see a slow drizzle of beer
trickle into your glass. Trust me when I say it will take the smile right off your face. If you can’t
provide pressure to the keg your beer will go flat quickly and you will risk ruining a perfectly good
keg. If you remedy the problem quickly you can avoid this kind of catastrophe. Most importantly
make sure you always have a keg on hand at all times!
Quality Over Quantity:
Choose a beer that you truly enjoy. You will find that you will usually drink less and thoroughly
enjoy each beer if you purchase good quality brew. Cheap beer will be consumed quickly, but
good beer is savored. Why anyone would want to purchase a kegorator to dispense cheap beer is
beyond me. Choose a beer that is good to the last drop.
Responsibility and Moderation:
Owning a kegerator is a responsibility. We all have friends that are oblivious of their limits. Just like
any bar tender you have the responsibility of cutting someone off if they become belligerent. By the
same token self-control is very important. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to finally own a
kegerator. That being said it is easy to overindulge. If you have to work the next day set a time that
you have to stop drinking, at least two hours before you crawl into bed.
Here's one final reminder of my
six kegerator commandments.
Just click on the picture to enlarge,
print a copy and tape it
to your kegerator!!
After writing my first two articles, I’ve received an amazing amount of positive
feedback from my readers. I would like to thank each and every one of you!!
Stay tuned for more Ale-chemy by Jay Eichberger next month!